Businesses struggle, flourish during break

William Channell and William Channell

While some University students relaxed during the month-long holiday break, the absence of potential customers was a ‘gift’ that kept on taking from local businesses.

George Nicholson, founder of Pagliai’s and Campus Pollyeyes, who has lived in Bowling Green since 1968, said there is a significant difference in business during the break.

“It takes 20,000 people out of town, so that’s an effect,” Nicholson said.

Dean Smith, a manager at Campus Pollyeyes, said while there is an impact, with the week after the New Year being the slowest time of the year, business doesn’t completely die out.

“We actually get quite busy [during the break],” Smith said. “We have a long-standing place in the town … we have a lot of word of mouth.”

Barbara Ruland, director of downtown Bowling Green, said local businesses understand the nature of operating in a college town, which allows them to prepare for breaks and holidays.

“Anybody who’s been in business downtown understands the cyclical impact of the student population,” Ruland said.

Sarah Martinelli, a bartender at Uptown Downtown, said while business is slower during break, the bar attracts a different crowd.

“We get a lot of locals,” she said. “They don’t have to deal with all the college students.”

While some downtown businesses know to prepare for the holiday break, the level three snow emergency in Wood County caught many shops and restaurants off-guard. The emergency was in effect from Jan. 6 through the morning of Jan. 8.

Ruland said while some businesses were able to brace themselves if they kept updated regarding the weather, it is unexpected weather events like the one last week that hurt business more than predetermined breaks.

“The snowstorm closed just about every business downtown,” she said. “That’s tough for folks who need to make rent.”

Smith said Campus Pollyeyes was closed from Jan. 6 to Jan. 7 at 4 p.m. After that, they had a smaller crew than usual for the day after the closure.

“We had a skeleton crew in here,” Smith said. “Anyone who was brave enough to come in, we served them.”

While the snow emergency caused many businesses to close, Nicholson said it wasn’t nearly as bad as the blizzard of 1978. On Jan. 26 of that year, a winter storm that included winds of more than 75 miles per hour passed through the Midwest, resulting in record snowfall. Much of the worst damage was in the Toledo area.

“It was 10 times worse than this [snow emergency],” Nicholson said. “We had two people in each [delivery] car, one with a snow shovel, one person driving.”

While students might be dreading returning to classes this week, local businesses are likely thankful.

“We’re really glad the students are coming back,” Ruland said.